90th BG c1943
90th BG c1943
|Pilot 2nd Lt. Raymond J. Drewelow, O-681356
(MIA / KIA) Waterloo, IA
Co-Pilot 2nd Lt. Edward M. Sparks, O-686504
(MIA / KIA) Alton, KS
Navigator 2nd Lt. James H. Nelson, O-808118
(MIA / KIA) Tallulah, LA
Bombardier 2nd Lt. George R. Ellison. O-686420
(MIA / KIA) Danville, VA
Engineer SSgt Joel G. Williams, 13119200
(MIA / KIA) Meadows
of Dan, VA
Gunner SSgt Salvatore J. Elhai, 32342549 (MIA / KIA) Brooklyn, NY
Ball Turret SSgt William E. Van Camp, 15374878 (MIA / KIA) South Bend, IN
Gunner SSgt Arthur J. Swartz, Jr., 16067751
(MIA / KIA) Aurora, IL
Gunner Sgt Gilbert F. Smith, 35494264
(MIA / KIA) Princeton,
Gunner Sgt Anthony G. Scaccia, 38194418
(MIA / KIA) New Orleans, LA
Crashed March 5, 1944
Built by Consolidated at San Diego. Constructors Number 2212. Delivered to the U. S. Army Air Force (USAAF) as B-24D-135-CO Liberator serial number 42-41135. Ferried overseas via Hickam Field then across the Pacific to Australia.
Assigned to the 5th Air Force, 90th Bombardment Group, 319th Bombardment Squadron. Nicknamed "Cold Steel" in white with nose art of an amazon warrior woman holding a shield and sword behind her. This bomber flew at least 39 bombing missions and claimed at least three enemy aircraft shot down.
When lost, engines R-1820-45 serial numbers 42-87720, 51902, 42-87712, 41-44509. Weapon makers and serial numbers were not listed in are noted in Missing Air Crew Report 3307 (MACR 3307).
On March 5, 1944 took off from Nadzab Airfield No. 1 piloted by 2nd Lt. Raymond J. Drewelow on a bombing mission against Hansa Bay. During the flight, this B-24 disappeared
in heavy thunderstorms. No radio transmissions
were ever received from the crew, and subsequent searches did not
locate them. When this aircraft failed to return it was officially listed as Missing In Action (MIA).
The next day, a group of A-20s and B-25s on a return
flight. Also three B-24s from the 319th BS also searched the Hansa Bay area. No trace of the missing plane was found.
During 1979, discovered by a group of young explorers
from "Operation Drake" at an altitude of roughly 10,500'. They found
a large wheel and wreckage north of Tauta. They did not find a serial
number, incorrectly reporting to the press that they had found a "B-16".
Recovery of Remains
Bruce Hoy, curator of the PNG Museum notified US Army CILHI to investigate the crash site. No action took place until October
1988, when following a recovery mission in the Wau area, the site was
On October 13, 1988, Bruce Hoy flew to Tauta
and met with local officials. Flew to another nearby village Parimo and spoke to the villagers who had accompanied "Operation Drake" trekkers during 1979. They agreed to walk up to the site and clear a helipad.
Bruce Hoy Diary October 17-18, 1988:
"17 October 1988 - departed late from Lae and circled the mountain where
the helipad was to have been constructed at 8.20am. Cloud prevented
us finding it. Landed at the village and collected a headman. Again
the pad could not be located. Returned to Lae.
18 October, 1988 - pad
located but of insufficient width for the helicopter to land. Villagers
requested to widen it for our next visit. Team departs Lae for Port
On July 4, 1989, two members of CILHI with Bruce Hoy, PNG Museum, landed near the crash site and established a camp. Rain set
in, and we remained in camp for the rest of the day in very cold conditions at an altitude of 10,500'.
Bruce Hoy Diary July 5, 1989:
"5 July, 1989, to the crash-site at 7.55am,
reaching it at 8.35am. The crash site is located down the ridge from
the camp and covered the south-east section of a ridge. Located the
major portions of the wings, right tail fin from which the serial number
was recorded, two and possibly three engines and a large portion of
the left rear fuselage. Much evidence of disturbance by previous parties
including beer cans and wine bottles. Only one large calibre weapon
seen. Other portions found included both main landing wheels with tyres,
but no apparent evidence of the nose wheel nor forward part of the aircraft.
Much wreckage being buried. Hoy identified the aircraft that day from
records brought with me on site."
Bruce Hoy Diary also notes:
"I seem to recall that a report came to me at some time between
October 1988 and June 1989 that a group had flown into the newly constructed
helipad, and brought out several machine guns. With wine bottles
being present, one can only imagine how disrespectful this party treated
the site. A helicopter must have been used for beer and wine to have
been brought onto the site, as no way would anyone carry these up from
the closest village. A large fire had been lit nearby, which fortunately,
later proved to have been on sterile ground. [No human remains underneath]
Whatever, whoever removed those guns did so illegally, as well they
did disturb the site."
During August 1990, another CILHI team visited the crash site to complete the investigation.
Afterwards, the recovered remains of the crew were identified using mitochondrial DNA testing.
On November 26, 2001, a Department of Defense news release announced that the remains of the crew were identified and would be returned to their families.
The entire crew was officially declared dead on January 25, 1946. Each member of the crew earned the Air Medal and Purple Heart, posthumously. All are memorialized at Manila American Cemetery on the tablets of the missing.
After the identification of the recovered remains, the crew was buried at Arlington National Cemetery in a group burial at section 60, site 8017 on December 6, 2001.
Smith also has a memorial marker at Maple Hill / IOOF Cemetery (Princeton IOOF Cemetery) in Princeton, IN.
This B-24 might have had nose art or nickname, but it has not been determined. Sometimes confused with B-24D "Ready Willing and Able" 42-41078 assigned to the same squadron.
USAF Serial Number Search Results - B-24D-135-CO Liberator 42-41135
"41135 (319th BS, 90th BG) lost Mar 5, 1944, New Guinea. 10 crew MIA. MACR 3307. Aircraft wreck found Jan 2, 1991 [sic]"
Missing Air Crew Report 3307 (MACR 3307)
Bruce Hoy Diary, October 13, 1988 - July 5, 1989
Legacy of the 90th Bombardment Group page 104, "Ready Willing and Able" incorrectly appears twice in the loss listing, confusing this aircraft with B-24D 42-41078
PNG Museum Aircraft Status Card - B-24D Liberator 42-41135
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Raymond J. Drewelow "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Edward M. Sparks "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - James H. Nelson "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - George R. Ellison "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Joel G. Williams "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Salvatore J. Elhai "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - William E. Vancamp "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Arthur J. Swartz, Jr. "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Gilbert F. Smith "recovered and identified in 2001"
American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC) - Anthony G. Scaccia "recovered and identified in 2001"
FindAGrave - Raymond J Drewelow (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Edward M. Sparks (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - James H. Nelson (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - George R Ellison (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joel G. Williams (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Joshua Salvatore Elhai (crew photo, grave photo)
William E. Van Camp (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Arthur J. Swartz (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Gilbert F Smith (crew photo, grave photo)
FindAGrave - Gilbert F Smith (memorial marker, IOOF Cemetery)
FindAGrave - Anthony G. Scaccia (crew photo, grave photo)
DoD News Release "Remains of WWII Bomber Crew Identified & Returned" Nov 26, 2001
Thanks to Pete Johnson for additional information
including B-24 "Cold Steel" nickname and photo
Are you a relative or associated with any person mentioned?
Do you have photos or additional information to add?
February 14, 2020